Ryan Urban’s Colorizations Will Make Your Jaw Drop

BH1IbFd - Imgur

All work colorized by Ryan Urban. Used with permission.

Colorization has become a huge trend in the photo world and many have proven able to create spectacular works of art. One of those colorists is Ryan Urban. He has shared lots of his work across the internet and also across Reddit’s Colorization board. Ryan is a 26 year old nursing student from Colorado with a background in graphic design–which explains how he acquired his talent.

We talked to Ryan about what it takes to pull off colorizations like these.

Phoblographer: How do you know what colors to use when creating a colorization?

Kid's Playing in a Gutter Near a Dead Horse. NYC, 1900s - Imgur

Ryan: There’s a lot of research involved with the colorizations I do. Some photos, like the military ones, are pretty easy for the most part. A quick Google search will pull up uniforms and patches if you know what you’re looking for. Same goes for billboards, advertisements, and other little items. For larger photos such as the cities, I’ll actually get on Google Maps and use Street View to take a virtual drive around town to see which (if any) buildings are still around. I’ll also do research on the buildings themselves. The Detroit photo I did is a good example of that. The courthouse in the back of the photo was still relatively new at the time of the photograph. The copper statues featured on it would still have been bright and shiny as they were only a couple years old and hadn’t had the time to turn the green oxidized color that they are today. Once I’ve exhausted my resources on the internet, that’s when a lot of educated guess work comes in to play. The guess work part actually takes up a huge portion of the colorization process.

Phoblographer: Do you ever go back and think to yourself, “No, that can’t be right.” when colorizing?

Ryan: Constantly, ha. Whenever I have to make a guess on a certain color of say, a dress or a random object, I put a layer of color down and play with it until it seems right. Sometimes a color will look good while I’m working, but once I go back and forth between the colorized version and the black and white, it just sticks out like a sore thumb. I can’t count how many times I’ve adjusted a building to achieve the perfect tan color. Getting everything to feel just right is a long process of increasingly minor adjustments that at times will test my sanity to its limits.

Unk Pilot, WWII - Imgur

U.S.S. Oregon Athletes circa 1897 - Imgur

The Jersey Shore circa 1905. “Boardwalk at Asbury Park.” - Imgur

Soldiers of the 55th Armored Infantry Battalion and tank of the 22nd Tank Battalion, move through smoke filled street. Wernberg, - Imgur

Sergeant George Camblair Practicing With His Gas Mask In A Smokescreen. Fort Belvoir, Virginia, 1942 - Imgur

NYC 11th Ave 1909 - Imgur

New Orleans ‘Old-Absinthe House’ on Bourbon Street Circa 1903 - Imgur

MLK Delivering His Speech in Washington, DC. August 28, 1963  - Imgur

Main Street – Littleton, New Hampshire, Circa 1908 - Imgur

Indianapolis, Indiana, circa 1907. “Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument.” - Imgur

German General, Anton Dostler Being Tied To A Stake Before His Execution By Firing Squad. Aversa, Italy, 1945 - Imgur

Eureka Colorado (unknown date, late 1800s) - Imgur

Cornell’s Varsity Rowing Team, 1911 - Imgur

Cog Train Railway. Pike’s Peak, Colorado circa 1900 - Imgur

Allied Soldiers Giving Water to Wounded German, WWII - Imgur


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Chris Gampat

Chris Gampat is the Editor in Chief, Founder, and Publisher of the Phoblographer. He also likes pizza.